I had a conversation with a wedding photographer friend of mine yesterday. She was shooting a wedding for another friend of mine and we had the chance to catch up.
She told me about how her business is struggling. With the economy and the glut of amateur photographers flooding the market, her gross income has gone from around $70,000 to $17,000. Last year she shot 30 weddings and this year she only has five full-paying wedding shoots.
It’s not just the economy with people cutting budgets. She said that the amateur photographers out there are presenting a new model that clients are liking and veteran photographers are having to compete with. She said that her model has always been to show a proof book then to edit and tone the photos her clients like. Well, that’s no longer good enough, because client expectations are getting higher in specialty editing expectations and lower when it comes to pricing.
My friend said she’s competing against these new photographers who are spending a lot of time toning and tweaking the images before the client ever sees them. Using tools like Adobe’s Lightroom and shooting in RAW mode, these photographers are able to tweak their images, showing their clients the best end results even if it involves some post editing and toning that hasn’t been the photography industry norm. Still it is working and the numbers show that this new generation of photographers are presenting products that clients are happy with and prices they love.
The New York Times described this trend as “the huge shake-up in photography”
Amateurs, happy to accept small checks for snapshots of children and sunsets, have increasing opportunities to make money on photos but are underpricing professional photographers and leaving them with limited career options. Professionals are also being hurt because magazines and newspapers are cutting pages or shutting altogether. (From “For Photographers, the ending of a shrinking path” from the NY Times)
A CHANGE IN THE WIND
Like Spensen Johnson‘s “Who Moved My Cheese” parable, it’s time for photographers to change their means and methods. The things that worked before may not work now. It’s how markets work. If you keep supplying the same ol’ thing something new, different, cheaper and better is going to come along and show you up. Innovation is needed.
I know another professional photographer who started printing his own work and eventually sold his studio about five years ago and moved completely into the photo printing industry because he saw these changes coming. He once told me that he saw the rising of “soccer mom” photographers who would be shooting their neighbors family portraits, senior portraits, and weddings. He decided that he didn’t want to compete with them but have those thousands of budding photographers coming to him for high quality prints. It is working. His growing business has proven to be a great success as he leverages social media, targeted ads and marketing to his new audience. His printing company is bigger than his studio work ever allowed him to be. He’s even expanded into education to reach another aspect of his potential clients.
Other photographers are looking for ways to share equipment and spaces through collective groups like Studio Share.
Change is coming. Flexibility and innovation are key to our ever-changing new world.
Another photographer friend of mine has honed his craft and continues to do so. Now he focuses on high end clientele and has developed a niche market that is working well for him. Not everyone can do what he does as well as he does so he keeps going strong. Even so, he’ll need to keep tweaking his craft to stay on top of his market with his look, products and stay on top of his profession.
I also know photographers who are adding new aspects to their work repertoire. They are photojournalists adding things like video production. Using new cameras like Nikon’s D700 with video capabilities you can easily switch between photo and video and increase the outlets for your work. I also have seen wedding videographers shooting exclusively with DSLR for video purposes. It’s a whole new world when it comes to photography and videography.
Others are taking their talents as photographers and becoming educators training up others and making money doing it.
Think different and build an income base that is a good fit for you, but keep generating new ideas so you can stay in the market and not find yourself on the sidelines as the industry changes.